When the Braves selected Lucas Sims with the 21st overall selection of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, they envisioned the right-hander from nearby Lawrenceville, Ga., as a key piece of their rotation in the years to come.
The Braves still picture Sims, ranked No. 3 in the organization by MLB.com, atop their rotation one day. But for now, the 18-year old is beginning his first full professional season in the bullpen at Class A Rome.
"He's a young pitcher at a higher level getting an opportunity to work up some innings and experience," assistant general manager Bruce Manno said. "We're real comfortable with it."
Sims went 2-4 with a 4.33 ERA in eight starts at rookie-level Danville last season. But rather than placing him in Rome's Opening Day rotation, Manno said the Braves prefer to let him gradually work his way into that role.
Sims was the fourth-youngest player in the South Atlantic League on Opening Day. Considering his age and experience, the Braves could have left him in extended spring camp. But Manno said they believe Sims will get more out of relieving in Rome.
"When we're comfortable with his workload and what he's done, then we'll determine starts down the road," Manno said. "It doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean he can't start, it doesn't mean we're watching his pitches. It's more conducive to his development as a pitcher."
So far this season, Sims has appeared in three games, allowing four hits and five walks in 5 2/3 innings. He has struck out four batters.
Sims is not the only player who finds himself in a new spot in Rome this season. Josh Elander, who the Braves drafted as a catcher in the sixth round last June, has moved to the outfield full-time. He caught 22 games and hit .260 at Danville, but the Braves knew his future would likely be at another position.
Elander has begun the season hitting .340/.354/.489, with one home run through 11 games.
"He's really been consistent offensively; we think the move to the outfield better suits that," Manno said. "It's good for his progression as a prospect."
Teddy Cahill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.